How to Fix Sewing Machine Handwheel

How to Fix Sewing Machine Handwheel – 6 Simple Steps

You might have wondered what the handwheel on the sewing machine does. It is there to control the movement of the needle and the lever. For any seasoned seamstress, the handwheel is the trusted friend that keeps helps with the sewing. But what to do if the sewing machine handwheel stops turning properly?

This is a common problem that many users will face. From old machines with those large wheels to newer electric models with a knob, they will both wear down over time. Therefore, it is important to know how to fix the sewing machine handwheel when such a problem occurs. First, you need to identify the types of problems a handwheel can have and then solve them. And to ensure that future problems don’t occur, you will have to know how to take care of your sewing machine.

Key Takeaways

  • The handwheel is connected to many parts inside the sewing machine, which causes it to have problems with turning.
  • From rethreading to cleaning the machines, it is easy to fix sewing machine handwheel problems.
  • Maintenance is key to keeping the handwheel properly functioning. It is meant to last a long time so take good care of it.

Why Your Sewing Machine Handwheel Won’t Turn?

From collecting debris to problems with the needles, the handwheel can have many problems. This is due to it being a major part of the actual sewing and because of how many different parts it is connected to. So let’s look at some of the causes of the problems that the handwheel can have. As you will see in a bit,

The thread will be the main reason for the handwheel problems are:

  • Improper Threading
  • Needle condition
  • Bobbin size
  • Out belt
  • Incorrect presser foot
  • Lint buildup
  • Turning the wheel

1.Improper Threading

As the handwheel moves the needle up and down, the constant motion might cause the thread to get jammed or have high tension. The reason might be that the thread was inserted improperly, so the handwheel might get stuck or not turn as smoothly as possible.

Improper Threading
Improper Threading

2.Needle condition

As the main thing that the handwheel is moving, the condition of the needle is also important. A blunt needle will cause the thread to get overlapped or stuck around the handwheel. Or the position the needle is incorrectly placed so when the wheel is turned it jams it!

Needle condition
Needle condition

3.Wrong bobbin size

Because the thread goes through the bobbin, the bobbin must be placed correctly. The ones that come with your machine are the perfect size for it. But you might want to use another bobbin. A wrong bobbin size will cause the thread to get jammed and in turn, stop the handwheel.

Wrong bobbin size
Wrong bobbin size

4.Worn-out belt

Nothing is worse than turning the handwheel and hearing a strange noise coming from it. This might be caused by the belt being worn out. A worn-out belt will not turn the belt turn properly, which again might cause issues with the thread and overall stitching. Eventually, the wheel might become stuck if the belt is ruined beyond repair.

Worn out belt
Worn out belt

5.Incorrect presser foot position

The presser foot ensures that the stitching is even and the fabric is as flat as possible when stitching. However, if the presser foot is off-position, then the sewing will become puckered and cause the thread to wind around the handwheel incorrectly. This will cause the handwheel to get stuck in place!

Incorrect presser foot position
Incorrect presser foot position

5.Lint buildup

As you are working with fabric, you are bound to be around a lot of lint and dust in the process. Some of the lint will get in the machine and clog up the inner parts of the sewing machine. The most at-risk of lint buildup is the handwheel. As there is an inner cog that moves when the larger wheel is turned, any dust and lint buildup will block it and cause the handwheel to jam.

Lint buildup
Lint buildup

6.Turning the wheel the wrong way

This is for anyone that wants to use a sewing machine: always turn the knob/handwheel towards you! This is the correct way to turn the wheel. Turning it the other way will cause the thread that winds the wheel to come loose and definitely get jammed up somewhere. This will in turn block the handwheel mechanism.

There you have it, the majority of the problems that the handwheel will go through are because of how the thread inside might get caught up. Of course, there are very simple steps you can take to ensure that the thread alignment does not cause problems for your handwheel.

Top 6 Ways to Fix The Handwheel

You might get intimidated by the number of things that can make your handwheel get stuck or stop working. However, don’t be afraid! There are easy ways you can take to make sure that if it gets stuck, you can fix it.

  1. Rethreading
  2. Readjusting
  3. Needle insertion
  4. Inner knob
  5. Winding
  6. Cleaning

1.Rethreading the machine

As such with threading problems in a machine, it is best to rethread the machine all over again to avoid any problems with the handwheel. To rethread the machine, take out the old thread or jammed-up thread first. Then you start the threading process from the beginning. First, load the thread onto the thread spool, then guide it through the upper thread and the tension discs. Then you hook the thread, thread the needle and load the bobbin case. It is as simple as that!

Rethreading the machine
Rethreading the machine

2.Readjusting the bobbin case

The bobbin creates the stitch at the bottom of the fabric and it is assisted by the bobbin case. To avoid any stitching problems, readjust the bobbin case. This will ensure that the handwheel won’t have any problem if the case is properly inserted.

Readjusting the bobbin case
Readjusting the bobbin case

3.Correct needle insertion

Making sure that the needle is in the correct position will make sure that the stitching is perfect and the handwheel turns smoothly. You should place the needle into the machine with the flat side facing the back of the machine. The rounded side should be facing forward. The great thing about the newer electric model is that you can adjust the needle position with the touch of a button. So always make sure that the needle is properly centered and correctly inserted.

Correct needle insertion
Correct needle insertion

4.Checking the inner knob

The big wheel on the outside moves a little knob on the inside. That is the main function of turning the wheel. Anything could happen to the little inner knob, from getting jammed to not being lubricated properly. That is why if your handwheel is stuck or not turning properly, then open up the case and check the little knob. You can identify it immediately as it will be directly connected to the handwheel.

Checking the inner knob
Checking the inner knob

5.Winding the handwheel

While you have the sewing machine case opened, you could also look at the thread inside. Make sure that the thread is correctly placed by winding the handwheel. Remember, turn it towards you! If you notice any moving part being jammed or stuck while winding the wheel, then you can identify the problem area easily.

6.Cleaning the inside

Finally, clean the inside of the sewing machine. All the dirt and lint from the cut fabric will no doubt be accumulated inside. That’s why it is important to keep the inside machinery as clean as possible so nothing gets stuck while working the sewing machine. Pay special attention to the inner knob, bobbin case, belt, the thread spool. These places will require more careful cleaning because they are connected directly to the handwheel. I suggest using a dry microfiber cloth, especially an electrical sewing machine.

There you have it; some very easy but important ways you can fix the handwheel if it ever gets stuck. Of course, there might be a greater problem at hand if you have tried all the above-mentioned methods and the wheel still doesn’t turn properly. In that case, it is best to take it to a professional to figure out the problem.

Cleaning the inside
Cleaning the inside

Maintenance of Sewing Machine Handwheel

Maintenance of Sewing Machine Handwheel
Maintenance of Sewing Machine Handwheel

If you want to prevent your sewing machine handwheel from not working properly, then maintenance is the only way for you to make sure of that. Here are some maintenance tips you can use:

Lubricate the handwheel parts

With time, the natural lubricants that help keep the handwheel running smoothly will dry out. That is why I advise anyone with a sewing machine, new or old, to oil the moving parts of the handwheel every two to three years. I recommend the use of WD-40 lubricant spray. It will get lubricate all the hard-to-reach parts and not cause harm to your machine.

Regular cleaning

It is so important for any type of machinery, especially something that is around a lot of lint! Regular cleaning of every six months is enough to ensure that the handwheel does not get stuck. Of course, it also depends on how much you use it, but a three to six-month period is enough time to pass before cleaning your machine.

Covering the machine when not used

The worst thing you can do to a sewing machine is leave it in a place where it will gather a lot of dust. Because of the many moving parts of the sewing machine, they can easily get jammed or clogged. Cover the machine when not in use, that way dust and lint don’t accumulate inside the sewing machine, especially the handwheel.

Take good care of your sewing machine, because they are meant to last a long time. That is why it is good to have check-ups done according to the manufacturer’s instructions.


What is the purpose of the sewing machine handwheel?

It controls the movement of the needle according to how you are turning. It is the main way you use a sewing machine to stitch fabric together.

Which way should I turn the sewing machine handwheel?

Remember, always turn the knob/handwheel towards you. To raise the needle from a lowered position, make a full turn of the wheel (knob if you are using a newer model machine).

Can you overwork your sewing machine?

Yes, you can! If you are using an electric sewing machine, it should have an auto-off feature to shut down in case of overuse. For older models, inconsistent stitches are a sign that the machine is overworked.

Final Thoughts

The handwheel is important because it moves the needle to the fabric with the thread. Without it, a sewing machine would be useless. The handwheel is connected to many moving parts inside the machine so there are bound to be problems with it getting stuck! But they are easy to find out and solve. And if all your attempts at fixing it don’t solve the problem, then you can always take it to a professional.


Hey I’m Sherry Howes an expert in sewing, knitting, crocheting, and embroidery. With a passion for fiber arts and a talent for crafting, I Have spent years improving my skills and sharing knowledge with others. Whether teaching a class or creating a new project, I’m always excited to share my love of crafting with the world. I like researching new techniques and trends in the crafting arts community.

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